A Jewish religious festival celebrated on the 33rd day of the coming of Omer and is known as a minor holiday. It marks the 33rd out of the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot. Significantly, it is the only day during the Omer when Jewish weddings are allowed. There are various unique ways to celebrate and mark the occasion so we shall take a closer look at this special day, and what it involves for those who acknowledge it.
Why Celebrate Lag BaOmer?
This is a day with a difference, so celebrations are also not the same. Omer is a time for mourning, so celebrations such as weddings are actually not permitted. An observing Jew will not cut their hair during this time. There are different traditional reasons this is recognised in this way with the most prominent relating to the Talmud, where a plague killed many of Rabbi Akiva’s students because they lived without treating one another with respect.
It is said that the plague ended on the 33rd day of Omer, hence the celebratory recognition for the day. This was around the time of 50 – 135 CE and one of the students who survived was Rabbo Shimon bar Yochai, a notable Jewish scholar at that time who later died on the 33rd day of Omer some years later.
The rabbi Skiva was spared from the plague, and later died on the 33rd day of Omer, giving the day more significance.
So, the sadness of the Omer is stopped for a day, Lag Baomer, and there are celebrations instead. It is this day where celebrations are allowed, giving this day in Omer significance.
Is Lag BaOmer A Public Holiday?
In the western world, it is not, but this does not change the fact that it is an important day for the Jewish community. Celebrations are still held within Jewish communities around the world and some organizations are allowed to close to fully celebrate. In Israel, it is not considered a public holiday, although schools do close for the day.
How To Celebrate Lag BaOmer?
Since it is a day of celebration, weddings, dancing, haircuts are all permitted. It is actually a time where many 3-year-old boys get their first haircut. Families host other families, people get together to share picnics, barbeques, where they sing and dance traditionally. In the days leading up to Lag Baomer, fires are prepared. This makes it easier to light the bonfire in the evening, important since it is traditionally the children who light it. In schools, children may gather wood in the lead up to the day for this very purpose. The bonfires are stacked high to make them as big as reasonably possible. It is easy to see why some call it the Jewish holiday of bonfires.
It is believed that because it was a plague that caused the death of Rabbi Akiva’s students was actually caused by a Bar Kokhba revolt, the fires symbolise the communication between towns as a form of warning of the time.
Children are encouraged to play with more humble toys and go shoot bows and arrows
In Meron, Israel, it is also tradition to donate a Chai Rotel. This means donating 18 Rotel (roughly 13 gallons) of liquid food or drink to pilgrims attending the celebrations. It is believed that by doing this, the giver will be granted a miracle.
Lag BaOmer Traditions
Many of them are mentioned above, but let’s take a look at why there is a significance to children using bows and arrows for play. It is believed that the theory behind a plague killing thousands of Rabbi Akiva’s students may have been a way of saying there was a war and a bad defeat at that. Rabbi Akiva was involved in the Bar Kokhbar revolt, which was a rebel group around the time of 132 CE, and against the Roman rule of the time.
This plan, led by Simeon bar Koseva failed which resulted in thousands of death, and even longer oppression under the rule of the Roman leaders. The bows and arrows signify the fight of the rebels, and their fight for religious freedom at the time.
Where Is The Significant Place To Celebrate Lag BaOmer?
In Meron, Israel there is the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai which is where hundreds of thousands of Jews gather to celebrate. The roads are closed, and the masses and as per tradition, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai requested that his students celebrate his death, rather than mourn it. Meron is a place where the above customs are most common. So, expect 3-year old boys to be getting their first haircut, and weddings, dancing, Chai Rotel, and many more of the common ways of celebrating Lag BaOmer to be observed at this time of year.
When is Lag Baomer?
|This year (2023)||May 9 (Tuesday)||Multiple dates - more|
|Next year (2024)||May 26 (Sunday)||Multiple dates - more|
|Last year (2022)||May 19 (Thursday)||Multiple dates - more|